Literacy can enhance syntactic prediction in spoken language processing
Language comprehenders can use syntactic cues to generate predictions online about upcoming language. Previous research with reading-impaired adults and healthy, low-proficiency adult and child learners suggests that reading skills are related to prediction in spoken language comprehension. Here we investigated whether differences in literacy are also related to predictive spoken language processing in non-reading-impaired proficient adult readers with varying levels of literacy experience. Using the visual world paradigm enabled us to measure prediction based on syntactic cues in the spoken sentence, prior to the (predicted) target word. Literacy experience was found to be the strongest predictor of target anticipation, independent of general cognitive abilities. These findings suggest that a) experience with written language can enhance syntactic prediction of spoken language in normal adult language users, and b) processing skills can be transferred to related tasks (from reading to listening) if the domains involve similar processes (e.g., predictive dependencies) and representations (e.g., syntactic).
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Publication typeJournal article